GPA is one of the first things that college admissions officers and possible employers look at. Other parts of your resume are also important, but grades unfortunately tell a lot about you as a person. High grades usually signify that a person is a hard worker, is responsible and willing to forgo instant gratification for bigger, longer term gains. However, this does not mean that a few Bâ€™s or a C will hurt your chances of getting into your dream college or landing that high-paying job. But you should be able to make up for your so-so academic record by excelling in other areas. If you donâ€™t have a stellar GPA, focus on other parts of your application that you can control: get internships or summer jobs that are relevant and meaningful, volunteer for a good cause, take leadership positions in school or athletic clubs, commit to an activity that you love and be awesome at it. It also canâ€™t hurt to network with the right people.Â
What Colleges and Companies are Looking For
If you want to get into the top colleges and graduate schools (except perhaps Harvard, which is unlike any other college), no amount of charm or creativity can overcome a low GPA. Other schools are not as selective, and 99 percent of the time you can get in if you can prove that you deserve to be there. As for the job market, your GPA can be a deal breaker or not depending on the industry. It still holds true that employers are more likely to select an applicant with high grades, but it does not mean that average students canâ€™t get the job of their dreams in a prestigious firm. In a 2005 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the majority of hiring managers use 3.0 as their cutoff. Headhunters in the fields of science and technology, academia and finance generally prefer candidates with excellent academic records. Other fields (sales, trading, creative industries, etc.) donâ€™t put as high a premium on grades as long as you can prove that youâ€™re capable of doing the work. For example, a sales position in Wall Street may not require a high GPA if you have solid leadership experience or excelled at a varsity sport.
Overcoming a Poor GPA
Admissions officers and employers know that not all students are the same. While they consider a universityâ€™s reputation, they also take into account a candidateâ€™s personal situation. For example, extenuating circumstances can lead to a bad academic record. If youâ€™ve gone through overwhelming personal circumstances that interfered with your ability to function normally in school and at home (major surgery or illness like cancer, a family member passing away), make sure to mention it in your application. Setting up your own business or company can also overcome average grades, as well as relevant and quality internship experience. You donâ€™t need a 4.0 GPA to land a great internship; candidates with a can-do or go-getter attitude are often preferred over those with perfect grades.
Itâ€™s not recommended to omit your GPA from an application as though it never existed, but do emphasize your strengthsâ€”academics and otherwise. Some graduate schools and employers give more weight to grades you earned during your junior and senior years than to grades before that period. If you want to polish up your resume, list the GPA for all major courses or average grades only for major subjects. Hereâ€™s another tip: Only list an average for major courses if your major GPA is 3.0 or better and if overall grades are lower. List both if your major GPA and overall grades are better than 3.0.